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Category: Voices Articles

by Denae Ford

October 13, 2014

Identity Crisis

Though I am half way into my first semester as a PhD student. I am still trying to figure out out my new identity. I was told before I started this journey that I will lose friends and my relationships will disintegrate but I never thought it would ever happen to me.


The biggest struggle for me would have to be that I am at the same institution that I was at for undergrad. There were so many activities and organizations that I was apart of that contributed to my identity but now all that has changed. The largest one would have to be running track. Since I have been a freshman in high school track has always been a major deal in my life. Between practicing, having injuries, traveling, bonding with my teammates, and learning life lessons from my coaches, track was something that enticed me. 

Track was an anchored structure in my life. All activities I did were based on my track schedule. There were times I would stay up late to do homework and the fear that I would miss practice if i went to sleep too late encouraged me to pull all-nighters. Times when I would not go out to a party with my “normie(non-athletes)” friends because I knew I would have a hard practice the next morning.  Track encouraged so many positive things in my life. It got me to be more mindful about my diet since it reflects my performance, teaching me that I could push my body to new limits beyond my wildest dreams.


Being apart of something that you actually enjoy for 8 years is an amazing commitment. The hardest part is letting it go; but here’s the kicker, you don’t have to! I’m learning how to redefine what running is to me. I would relate this transition to moving to the other side of the country, away from your best friend.  No, you won’t be able to see each other every day nor call every other week like you used to. However, it’s a mutual understanding; you can pick up the phone and talk for hours like the old days.  That’s the type of relationship that I am learning to be okay with.  It’s definitely a struggle at first, but it’s comforting to know that it’s always there for you when you need it.

I suppose redefining what these things mean in your life is a large part of this PhD journey. With new goals, come new commitments and with new commitments, come new relationships.

Follow us at @myhealthimpact as we continue to discuss important topics relating to heath and tech.


by Victor Ajewole

October 07, 2014

Ignorance to Domestic Violence

Growing up I never actually seen a woman beaten in front of me or even wondered if domestic violence was even a growing issue. If anything, my life has never been directly affected by it and that plays a role on my views on this issue. In no way shape or form am I saying it’s not a problem, but I didn't know it was as big as a problem as it really is. The only instance that I heard of,  was in high school when a guy threw his girlfriend on a table. At the time I thought to myself, “who throws people on tables” not “Oh my gosh he is physically abusing his partner”. Looking back, I was foolish not to take the situation more seriously. We all knew something was wrong with that dude before the occurrence happened, but the person (female) didn’t give off signs of abuse.


With the sudden headlines of athletes admitting and accusations of domestic violence, male and female, we, as honest folk ,really have to start asking ourselves “How often does this happen?” Maybe I’ve been oblivious to this because I am a male. Maybe its because I just didn’t get out much in my teenage years. One of my friends even called it taboo. It never came up in conversation, and I don’t think people would publicly bring it up. I’ve heard gossip, but none of it was ever confirmed.

To segway back to the athletes, specifically NFL athletes, I do not agree with the current domestic violence punishments issued to players. We live in a world where an athlete smoking weed or even dog fighting holds harsher punishments than domestic violence. Player punishment should not be the main source to shed light on this issue. What happens when the abuser isn’t famous, rich, or even well known? Honestly, I feel like some people just wouldn’t care as much.


Domestic violence is also a health issue.  There is the mental health...physical health...sexual health.  Follow @myhealthimpact on Twitter and Tumblr as we discuss current social and cultural issues impacting health.


by Denae Ford

October 01, 2014

Plight of the BLACK WOMAN

Calling all angry BLACK women! It is now our time to speak up and rejoice in our rage. (That was definitely not serious by the way!) I’m sure by now that most of you have heard about the New York Times article by Alessandra Stanley. Stanley claims to have used intense language as literary devices to pay homage to “angry black woman”, Shonda Rhimes, a renowned African-American screenwriter, director, and producer.

Honestly, I think it’s crazy that the article was even published due to the cultural insensitivity of the editors. This must have been a publicity stunt for the NY Times because the backlash has been incredible. So many actors, actresses, and television personalities have taken to twitter to voice their opinions on the disrespect Rhimes received.


As a woman of color attending a PWI, Predominantly White Institution, I have often found myself trying my hardest not to fulfill all the horrible stereotypes that are associated with what I look like. Being one of the 2 African-American females of the 199 in the PhD Program has bothered me so much that I have gone to extra lengths to blend. For example, I started wearing glasses to look smarter and blend with everyone else in my lab who wore glasses. I felt like I had to make myself look smarter because I looked different from everyone else.  I wanted to look like I was intelligent because I feared that they thought I was not. Honestly, sometimes I feel like the more that I advance in my education, the more I feel like I have to diminish the things that make me unique from my counterparts.

It’s hard enough with the pressures I put on myself; having the pressures of the media reinforcing the stereotypes is definitely overbearing. Television shows such as  “Love and Hip Hop” and “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” showcase African-American women in dramatic situations that acknowledged the ‘angry black woman’ stereotype. However, watching shows like “Scandal” encourage me to embrace my authority as a woman of power in today’s culture. I finally have a modern show on TV with a strong African-American woman doing amazing things. The last show I watched liked that was “The Cosby’s”. Clair Huxtable taught me that women of color can actually have careers, have a family, and still be on top of it all. It’s so important to have those depictions of African-American women on television, and I’m glad they are there. The backhanded compliments of Alessandra Stanley were definitely unnecessary, uncalled for, and setback the advancement of women of color in the media. I can’t wait for the highly anticipated show “How to Get Away With Murder” so I can have another example of woman doing AMAZING things.

Follow @myhealthimpact for more on current topics impacting our health.


by Denae Ford

September 29, 2014

Mood Music

As a former student-athlete, running is definitely a large part of my identity. For the longest time, I have kept a couple consistent appearances of people that I listen to get in the mood for my runs and long drives. It’s a combination of old Beyonce, specifically the album titled B’Day ,Aaliyah, Justin Timberlake, Lil Wayne mixtapes, Go-Go, and Lauryn Hill.


I suppose you could say that I have a wide palette in music that varies on the mood that I’m in. Here’s a list of some of the things I’m into:

  • Aaliyah - More than a Woman

  • Beyonce - Green Light

  • Justin Timberlake - Senorita

  • Mambo Sauce - Miracles

  • Lil Wayne – Sorry For The Wait

  • Lauryn Hill- Ex Factor



by KaMar Galloway

September 10, 2014

How Beats Playlist Keeps Me Entertained

Since graduating from college, I have severely fallen out of the music game. I didn’t realize it until now but my roommates were my connection to just about any genre of music. I could always count on:

  • the musician of the house, JC, to launch the next wave of music, Flyby
  • my sneaks and beats partner, DF, to drop some old school songs from The Roots
  • and the homie, AJ, to play some smooth gospel on Sunday mornings


Now that I am all on my own and forced to play music for myself, I’ve yet to truly find my rhythm. Whether I am in the house cleaning my bathroom, driving home, or remixing last year’s dance moves, BEATS MUSIC keeps me entertained. The latest playlist that I subscribed too (yes that’s a real thing) is titled “Behind the Boards: DJ Mustard”. Here’s a sneak peek of what’s going through my speakers.

  • Kid Ink - Show Me (feat. Chris Brown)

  • Jeremih - Don’t Tell ‘em (feat. YG)

  • Ty Dolla $ign - Or Nah (feat. Wiz Khalifa & DJ Mustard)

  • YG - Who Do You Love? (feat. Drake)

  • Tee Flii - 24 Hours (feat. 2 Chainz)

Note: Due the explicit nature of some of these songs, please listen at your own discretion.


by Keiara Morris

August 27, 2014

Graduate School Life

The program that I’m involved in is a year. So when (not if) I finish, I will have a master’s degree and a teaching license. I knew that this experience was going to be a little more difficult and different but nothing really could have prepared me for what I was about to endure. I absolutely love my program and new school…although it’s a lot of purple and gold and not red, I’m managing. I enjoy the subject matter, I look forward to going to class, meeting with my professors and working with my cohort. Please believe me when I tell you that graduate school is not undergrad. It’s definitely an adjustment. It’s a lot of reading and when I say a lot I mean just that. Everything is much more so application based. The professors want to make sure that we really know and understand the things taught. Being able to memorize and regurgitate concepts on a piece of paper? Yep, those days are over.

My program is set up in a cohort, which is basically like a family of everyone in your program in which you take all of the same classes at the same time. This has been so helpful. Use your resources. You could take option one and just wander away from the group and struggle on your own or take option two and realize that you aren’t in this by yourself and struggle together. I’ll take option two for $200 Alex! I see it as strength in numbers situation. It really feels like that we’re leaning on one another in this rough 5-week summer session. I honestly don’t know what I would do without them.

I’ve had many sleepless nights, where food wasn’t even thought about, sticky notes everywhere and my planner looks like a bunch of hieroglyphics but I don’t mind. I’m assuming this is the feeling you get when you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe.

My advice although limited in nature would be to find interesting ways to relieve stress and give yourself a break. As much as catching up on sleep would be the ideal thing to do, just taking a moment to breathe and enjoy your accomplishments thus far, re-organize and prioritize is a little more rewarding to me.

I’m still here. I’m making it. You can too!



by Victor Ajewole

August 19, 2014

Everyone Dies in the Summer

“Cause everybody dies in the summer
Wanna say ya goodbyes, tell them while it's spring
I heard everybody's dyin' in the summer
So pray to God for a little more spring” – Chance the Rapper

This excerpt is from the song “Paranoia” from Chicago Based rapper, Chance the Rapper. This small excerpt is just a taste of the violence in Chicago. We as the black community recognize some of the black on black violence around particular parts of the nation. Not just Chicago but every urban city where young black men live. I once had a teacher that shared something similar with my seventh grade class. She reminded us on how to stay safe during the summer. We brushed it off as if we needed someone to tell us how to be safe. Going to an inner city high school, I have a good idea on what in school violence looks like. I witnessed theft, violence, and the loss of classmates. After multiple deaths in my high school, I realized what my seventh grade teacher was saying. She was trying to look out for us. She wanted our mentality to be focused on safety and not what we think is safe. No one can predict death, but we can take preventive steps to lessen the likelihood of violence.

Even the recent Eric Garner death has black males questioning our own safety. Continuous harassment WILL push a man to act unconventionally. If you were to watch the Eric Garner video, Mr. Garner is fed up with the constant harassment form the local police department and he finally stands up for himself. Little did we know, it would be the last stand Mr. Garner would take. On August 1, 2014, the official medical examiner ruled Eric Garner’s death a homicide.

But why violence?

It’s not the music that make kids fight; nor is it the food they eat nor the water they drink either. It’s not the cars they drive or they places they work. It’s not the clothes they wear or the look of their hair.  Stigma, negative stigma is the cause of the uproar of violence and young deaths. We as young black males are the blame for bad neighborhoods. We are the blame for inner city violence and poverty rates. We are the blame for single mothers with children that repeat the cycle of violence. We are taught that everyone who is not in our same social economical class is the enemy. We put the blame on everyone, but ourselves. I was taught that I was the problem, until I realized it wasn’t me. We must better ourselves by changing our mindset. I was even influenced by several articles I’ve read in the past few weeks. A young black Cornell Graduate student has written articles on his take on race in the United States. I was moved so much by his articles that I emailed him. I essentially said ‘Thank you’ for having an open mind approach to the ongoing problem about race.  The article was in reply of a Time magazine article “Why I’ll Never Apologize for My White Male Privilege”.

I didn’t have a creative segway to this topic, but I came across this song “Treat Me Caucasian” not too long ago; by another Chicago rapper Supa Bwe.

“Come off them-come off them benefits
Untriple all of our sentences, treat me Caucasian
Get me a loan with no sin attached
Give me that privilege, give me that, treat me Caucasian” – Supa Bwe


by Ebony Baldwin

August 13, 2014

“Selfies” and Mental Health Disorders

Experts including Dr. Lucie Hemmen and Dr. David Veal are beginning to consider a compulsion to take selfies as a serious mental health problem. Individuals can spend hours, even days taking hundreds of selfies in an attempt to capture the “perfect” photo (McKay). Taking selfies can lead to technology addiction and Body Dysmorphic Disorder — a chronic mental health condition in which the sufferer obsesses over perceived flaws with their body. In addition to that, it has been proven by multiple studies that taking selfies can be detrimental to a person’smental health, and it can be linked to narcissism, depression, and low self-esteem.

So how can we fix this problem? First, we have to realize that there is a deep denial about how dangerous it is to interact with screens without setting limits on how much time is spent doing so. With that said, it is hard to convince people that the effects of taking selfies are serious. Nevertheless, the common treatment of taking selfies is gradually learning how to go for longer periods of time without satisfying the urge to take a photograph, along with therapy to address the root cause of the problem. Thus, learning how to use selfies in moderation. Selfies, if used properly, can be a feel-good and often creative way, to chronicle one’s life and emotions and express one’s personality.


In conclusion, know this—According to clinical psychologist Lucie Hemmen there is a continuum of health and authenticity in what you shoot and post (McKay). A secure, mature person is going to post selfies that are spontaneous and not overly engineered or edited, and they're going to do it less often. A more insecure person is going to post staged or sexualized photos, and they're going to do it so much that they become consumed by it and the comments they receive. Let’s not let selfies control our mental health.



McKay, Tom. "A Psychiatric Study Reveals Selfies Are Far More Dangerous than You Think." PolicyMic. N.p., 28 Mar. 2014. Web. 16 June 2014. <>.


by Julian Cobb

August 07, 2014

The Time Is Almost Here

In two weeks, I will be leaving the state that I’ve called home for twenty-two years to begin my new journey. How do I feel? I can’t even begin to describe the emotions that are going through my head at this very second. All I have in Nashville, TN is an aunt. That’s it! Granted I’m thankful that she is there but as far as everything else… I’ll have to start from scratch.

The Masters of Divinity Program at Vanderbilt University will take three years to complete. In the grand scheme of things, that doesn’t seem that long. My undergraduate career took four years but the time literally flew by! I am grateful to have the opportunity to attend such a prestigious institution…but it’s the adjustment piece that continues to plague my mind.

It takes eight hours to get from Durham, NC to Nashville, TN. This means I can’t just hop in the car and go see my family whenever I want to. Wow. It still hasn’t hit me yet but I think it will once I move. In Nashville, I’ll be an hour behind everyone back at home. I must say that when I went to visit Nashville, I did enjoy being in the central time zone. I felt like I had more time in the day- probably because I wasn’t doing much in the first place besides touring the city. I’m not too keen on cars but now I’ll have to take time to really learn about my vehicle. This is something I should have been doing already- I know. I do have AAA so that actually may come in handy! It still wouldn’t hurt to know about your own vehicle. I’m not looking forward to finding a new barber AND a new church home. I’ve been going to the same barber since middle school. All I had to do was call my barber, tell him I was coming and he would find the time to squeeze me in his schedule. I have been attending the same church for four years. Before that, I was a member at my home church for eighteen years. My church family has truly been my support system in college and throughout life. Leaving both churches will be difficult for me.

When it comes to the divinity school, I will be entering a totally new curriculum. Reading and studying are about to become my new best friends. I know that undergraduate and graduate programs are on two different levels. I’m not expecting it to be easy but then again… I don’t know what exactly to expect- if that makes any sense. Theology is something that I’ve always had an interest in so I’m sure I will enjoy learning new concepts. At the same time, I am grounded in what I believe personally. I realize that everyone who comes to Divinity School may not believe the same way that I do. Some individuals may be Buddhist, Hindu or even atheist. No matter their religious preference, I still have to see them as human beings and understand that they too have a voice.

I heard someone say once that “sometimes you have to go in order to grow”. This journey is definitely going to be a growth process for me but I’m up for the challenge. I’ve come too far to stop now. Besides, I can still see my doctorate within reach after I get my masters. Three degrees before I turn 30 years old- it can happen. Don’t believe it? Just watch.



by Research Scholars

July 22, 2014

Twitter Chat: Snapchat & Technology Obsession


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In Partnership with: Poole College of Management, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, National Science Foundation, Penn State

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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